Country Music Rap Sheet – A Picture History of Mugshots & Arrests

July 22, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  36 Comments

Authenticity and dysfunction are regularly celebrated in country music, and what better way to celebrate that than to look back in time a some of the most notable mugshots and arrests of country music’s most notable stars.

Johnny Cash

Cash was arrested twice. The first was after a trip to Mexico when he tried to hide 1,163 Dexedrine and Equanil tablets in his guitar case while crossing the border near El Paso, TX in 1965. Since the drugs were prescription instead of illegal narcotics, Cash received a suspended sentence. He was arrested again in 1966 in Starkville, Miss. for … get this … picking flowers late at night. The property owner pressed trespassing charges, and Johnny spent time in the Starkville County Jail, resulting in the song of the same name.

Though Cash was famous for his concerts at Folsom Prison and San Quentin, he never served time in anything bigger than a city jail (the bottom mug was just for show).


Willie Nelson

The trouble started for Willie Nelson way back in 1960 when he was arrested for speeding in Pasadena, TX (near Houston). And then came the pot busts:

  • 1974 – For possession in Dallas, TX.
  • 1994 – For possession in Hewitt (near Waco) when Willie pulled his Mercedes off the side of the highway for a siesta and an officer found a joint in the ashtray and eventually a bag of marijuana. The judge ruled the evidence inadmissible and the charges were dropped.
  • 2006 – For possession in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana for one-and-a-half pounds of marijuana and 3 oz. of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Willie, his sister Bobbi, and Willie’s manager were all arrested, eventually receiving 6 months probation.
  • 2010 – For possession of 6 ounces of marijuana at the Sierra Blanca, Texas border checkpoint. Willie eventually only had to pay a fine.


Willie Nelson mugshot

Jerry Lee Lewis

In the dead of night in November of 1976, a drunken and armed Jerry Lee Lewis showed up to the gates of Graceland demanding to see his fellow Sun Studios alum Elvis right then and there. The guard rang Elvis who refused “The Killer’s” request, and then rang Memphis police when Lewis began waving a gun around.


Hank Williams Jr.

You may think because Hank Jr. was the last of his rowdy friends to settle down that at some point he would wind up in the pokey, but it turns out his mugshot was for a bunk charge from a 19-year-old in March of 2006 that said Jr. put her in a choke hold after she refused to kiss him. Jr. turned himself in, and after finding out the girl was looking to cash in big on the accusation and that there was no real evidence of the altercation, the charges were dropped.


Glen Campbell

In November of 2003, Glen Campbell was arrested at his home near Phoenix, AZ after hitting and running while drunk in his BMW. Then while Campbell was being processed, he kneed an officer in the leg, which added an aggravated assault of a police officer charge. Campbell pleaded down some of the counts, and eventually spent 10 days in jail.


Rodney Atkins

Domestic abuse charges landed Rodney Atkins in front of the police camera in February of 2012, but the news about the charges didn’t come out until his wife filed for divorce a few weeks later. The news also came on the heels of Rodney re-signing with Curb Records. The charges were later dropped as part of the divorce settlement.


Hank Williams

An indelible image of country music’s first superstar in this midst of his downfall in 1952, leaving the jailhouse in Alexander City, Alabama.


Billy Joe Shaver

Notable country music songwriter Billy Joe Shaver sits on the witness stand stemming from an altercation behind Papa Joe’s bar near Waco, TX in 2007 when Shaver shot a man non lethally in the face with a .22 pistol. The incident became a piece of country music lore when Dale Watson wrote a song titled “Where Do You Want It?” allegedly for the question Shaver asked his victim before he pulled the trigger. The high-profile trial incuded Willie Nelson showing up as a Shaver character witness, and eventually all charges were dropped against when it was ruled Shaver was acting in self defense.


Wynonna Judd

In 2003, daughter Judd was pulled over for speeding and subsequently blew a .175, lading her in jail before she posted a $500 bail. It all happened right down the street from Music Row, so maybe it’s true what they say about the country music industry driving artists to drink.


Kid Rock

Just like the “Wet Cigarette of Country Music” to get arrested at a Waffle House. In October of 2007, Kid Rock and his crew stopped into the DeKalb County, Georgia eatery where they proceeded to brawl with gawking patrons. Other members of Kid Rocks posse were also arrested. Rock was found guilty of simple battery. It was his 4th chance to strike the perp pose over the years for various charges.



David Allan Coe

You better believe DAC would be here, but unfortunately this is the biggest photo we can drum up of David from his time in the Ohio State Penal System.


Coe was also arrested in 2008 after an altercation in a casino when a misunderstanding about a jackpot resulted in security officers and police wrestling Coe to the ground. Coe countersued in 2010 for false arrest and assault. The entire altercation was caught on tape.

Billy Currington

Yes, we know that some of the younger generation of country performers don’t want to pander to the “old farts and jackasses,” but maybe Billy Currington took it a little too far when he threatened a 70-year-old boat captain for coming too close to his waterfront property in Tybee Island, Ga. Currington was cited in April of 2013 for making “terroristic threats” and “abuse of an elder.” Case is still pending.


Johnny Paycheck

Johnny Paycheck spent 4 years battling an aggravated assault charge after shooting a man in a Hillsboro, OH bar during a brawl. Though multiple appeals kept Paycheck out of prison for a while, he was finally sentenced to the Chillicothe Correctional Institute in 1989 where he served two years before being paroled.


Chris Cagle

In May of 2008, Louisiana country star Chris Cagle got in a tussle with his girlfriend Jennifer Tant at the Player’s Bar in Nashville before the couple took the bout home. Cagle wielded Jennifer’s purse. Jennifer weilded an umbrella, and they both ended up in the big house. Police said they were both too drunk and disorderly to press any serious charges.


The Boomswagglers

When the underground country band from Austin, TX went to release their first album, they chose their mutual mugshots from the same Williamson County roundup to make up the CD art.


George Jones

No mugshots of George Jones’s numerous run ins with the law during his drinking days have ever surfaced, but video did a few years ago from a George Jones documentary.

Randy Travis

Get well Randy! …. but we couldn’t make this list without you. Travis was forced to pose for police camera twice in 2012; once after a drunken fight at a church, and the other after driving drunk….and naked.



36 Comments to “Country Music Rap Sheet – A Picture History of Mugshots & Arrests”

  • I heard Coe on a live recording once boast that he spent time in the Ohio State Pen for manslaughter, therefore he was the “original Country outlaw” and Waylon and Willie couldn’t say that!?


    • If I’m not mistaken, Coe’s been in and out of correctional facilities since he was nine years old. It wouldn’t surprise me if part of that was for manslaughter.


    • DAC was in prison for robbery. He likes to point out that he did time on death row, which he did; but only because of a lack of cell space, not because he was sentenced to be executed. He also claims to have killed a man in prison who propositioned him for sex, but he was never charged and there’s no evidence that it happened beyond his claims.


      • I’m sure there’s still a version of that live recording available somewhere. It seems like ’77’ or ’78’ when I heard the “tape” of him saying that from the stage.


        • Coe is a contradiction in and of himself. He published an autobiography back in the 1980s in which he outlined his fairly mundane prison record and claimed that others in the music industry had sensationalized it, but as you say (and I’ve witnessed it myself) he built up his prison record himself as much as anyone else and probably more.


          • I was watching a recorded concert of DAC at Billie Bob’s Texas the other night on Dish, and he mentioned being friends with III, and Jr, and even Hank Sr. From what I’ve read Coe was born in 1939 and didn’t pursue a music career until 1967. Being that Hank Sr died in 1953, when Coe was ~14, I have to doubt very seriously that the two ever met, much less were friends. Coe definitely seems more about hype than substance.


          • Don’t forget that he’s the one who discovered James Taylor, and that he was the inspiration for “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

            I’m not knocking ol’ DAC here. I love his music and he puts on a hell of a good live show (or at least he did 20+ years ago). But even the most devoted of fans should acknowledge that he’s largely full of shit.


  • The Boomswagglers need to be pressed a little harder. I love that cd. I listen to it at least once a week. I wish the production value was a little better but then again, that’s why I listen to it so much. It’s raw, grimy, filled with emotion and just a hell of a good mix of music. Dig it!


  • Very informative article, Trig! I hadn’t heard of half of this stuff (but I was wondering about Hank Sr. being released from jail and you answered my question). I especially love the gallery of Willie Nelson mugshots; it’s almost like his evolution. No beard, beard and long hair, older with long hair. I do have a few questions if you’ll indulge me:

    1. Why does Hank Jr.’s look so messed up in his mugshot? Are his eyes uneven due to his fall off of that mountain in 1975?

    2. Do we know why Rodney Atkins apparently flipped out?

    3. What exactly happened with Billy Joe Shaver? The incident isn’t clearly defined, nor is how he managed to shoot a man in the face “non-lethally.”

    4. I know that the trial is pending for Billy Currington, but what is the verdict shaping up to be? As everyone knows, these celebrity-related stories tend to be exaggerated for the sake of headlines and I can’t help thinking that something has been left out.


    • Yes, Hank Jr’s eye was apparently hanging out of the socket when he took his tumble down Ajax Mountain. After the incident he always wore sunglasses so as not to shock people, not because he thought he was so cool he deserved to wear sunglasses all the time. I believe the mugshot may be the only time he’s been photographed without his sunglasses, which you can see clipped to his collar.

      More info on the Billy Joe Shaver incident here:


      I haven’t heard any new news on the Billy Currington incident. My guess is it’s awaiting trial.


      • I always enjoyed the story about Shaver waiting for Waylon backstage at one of his shows and saying, “if you don’t listen to my songs, I’m going to whip your ass!”. Waylon called off his hired “hands” and agreed to listen to them. The beginning of a great relationship!


      • Hank Jr. has been photographed a time or two post-mountain fall without the glasses, but generally he keeps ‘em on. I’ve heard somewhere before that one of his eyes is glass, but have never got any confirmation on it.


    • Knowing Rodney Atkins very personally after the incident he had told me the were fighting which had become the norm unfortunately in their marriage and, due to a few drinks being involved, got a little loud.No physical altercation occurred and he stepped into the shower to end conflict. She called the police with false accusations while he was in the bathroom possible being bitter on her part. Knowing him as well as I do he is so gentle he would not hurt a fly. The charges were dropped obviously because they were false.


  • Has Hank II had any run-ins with the law? I recall Bob Wayne talking about his time being in jail and the time he ran away from a road crew when he was sweeping the sidewalk… For what was Hank Sr. in prison? Merle Haggard spent some time in prison. And, of course, Unknown Hinson spent “30 damn years in the joint.”


    • Aside from being served papers for his son and having to face a judge for that, Hank3 has not had any other run-ins with the law that I know of.

      Bob Wayne had multiple law run-ins in the pas, and has written about a few of them.

      Hank Williams was never in prison, and I don’t think had any major offenses except drunken this and lewd that and spending the night in the local clink.


  • So hear is my question. If Billy Currington was to release a poster/picture for sale of a mugshot that had some big prison name on it. What would be your opinion?


    • I guess I don’t know how I would feel about it. It would probably depend on how the music was, and if it related intuitively to the cover. As the old saying goes, can’t judge a book by its cover.


  • i don’t know why Glen Cambell kneeing the cop cracks me up but it does. it says he got police officer in the leg but i’m assuming he was really going for the coin purse…what a dick,lol.


    • There is something majestically sordid about the image that evokes.


      • Campbell also cultivated a nice guy image, so maybe the humor is the contrast.

        I find it interesting how few of these arrests were for drugs. I know it is not necessarily comprehensive, but it certainly seems like there is plenty of drug use in the country scene.


  • I had not heard of the Chris Cagle incident last but that doesn’t surprise me. I saw him in concert last year and he seems like a total idiot.


  • Couldn’t find anything for Merle? I suppose that was a long time ago, but you did have a picture of Hank Sr., so I thought one of the Hag’s mugshots might be online by now.


    • If I could have found an appropriate image for Merle anywhere online or in print, I certainly would have included it here.


  • where is Merle Haggard at?


  • I never understood how a guy like Billy Currington has not gotten bigger than he is in country music. I’m not saying he’s the greatest or anything, but he has had a number of hit songs and quite a few we’re actually pretty decent songs. Girls seem to like him, so I never understood how guys like Shelton, Bryan, Aldean and all them shot through the roof and he kind of stayed in the middle.


    • Because Mutt Lang’s not around anymore!


    • Simple answer: He doesn’t seem to be much of a douchebag. Maybe this incident with the old geezer will help his image with the typical mainstream country music fan.


  • Love that boomswagglers picture (along with all the others!() has anyone heard what they story is with that? I always by the “Slammer” when I’m getting gas / beer / etc and have seen a bunch of folks I know in there (I guess that id the point lol)


  • Tom T. Hall wrote the song “A Week in a Country Jail” about his real-life experience of being pulled over for speeding in Paintsville, Kentucky. He was arrested when the cop discovered he had expired plates and didn’t have his driver’s license on him. His stay in the jail lasted a week because the county’s only judge was away to attend a funeral.

    On another note: “… He threatened a 70-year-old boat captain for coming too close to his waterfront property in Tybee Island, Ga.” That just screams COUNTRY!


  • Wwwwhy do you have to bring up the drinking when Randy is ill??


  • you can guess their arrests on a mugshot guessing game here:



  • Nice one, But when did Kid Rock become a country artist? And I sort of expected Steve Earle to be included, and how about Justin?


  • Glad to see The Boomswagglers included on this one. I also didn’t know Hank Sr. was in jail…damn, I’m falling down on my country music history.


  • Thanks for lifting the Pasadena mugshot of Willie Nelson which we unearthed for the first time in our story about 3 months back and not attributing the source.


    • First off, I have pulled the picture if that makes you happy. Second, I did not get the picture from “you,” though there is probably a good chance where I did get the picture got it from you. As you can see from the other pictures above, if I had a name of the photographer or a source of the picture, I included it. And if I had that information, I would have included it for that particular picture. I don’t think it is fair to characterize that I “lifted” anything, and if you wanted proper credit I would have been more than happy to give it if that information had been conveyed in a manner that takes into consideration the complexities of aggregating information and pictures on the internet, and attributing the original source wherever possible, which if you poke around Saving Country Music, you will see we make a habit of.

      The name “Saving Country Music” and subsequent content on the site has been ripped off so many times I can’t count. There’s a Facebook group using one of our terms that has nearly 100,000 likes, while ours only has 1,500. That’s the way it goes. But I never intentionally rip anyone off.


  • “God is Great….Beer is Good and PEOPLE ARE CRAZY”….Billy.


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